Early spring migration at Fort Desoto

It was a beautiful morning when I got to Fort Desoto Park in early April. I stopped by the East Beach turnaround to get a shot of the sun coming up over the bay. I had high hopes for seeing some migrating birds that has stopped by but it was still a little too early for spring migration. Last April we had a really slow migration with hardly any birds stopping by so I’m hoping we don’t have a repeat.

A pileated woodpecker was the first bird I saw, high up in a tree.

A hooded warbler and a black and white warbler with a snack. Normally I would be excited but I had  just seen both of these in my backyard.

There were at least 3 prothonotary warblers in a big bush in front of the water fountain being very cooperative. It was the only other migrating bird we saw that morning. There were a lot of people out looking. Again, it was still early in the month.

An opsrey was eating a fish in the tree behind the prothonotary warbler. I had to take a shot before heading to the gulf fishing pier for a quick walk before heading home.

I got to the fishing pier and saw the reddish egret that has the white wings fly by.

There were a lot of birds at the little beach next to the fishing pier. The usual gulls, terns and oystercatchers.  But there was something else that looked different.

A rare kittiwake was sitting there with the other birds. After a while I realized a ton of people were at the pier taking pictures of him as well. This is only my 2nd kittiwake sighting. Back in 2013 I was able to see the immature one at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge fishing pier. I had heard there was one seen in 2017 and this was the 3rd sighting recorded in Pinellas county ever. People were phoning and texting friends and by noon a big crowd had formed.  Everyone gave him space and stayed off the beach area. They even stopped tourists from walking through the area. Twice he took off and flew down the pier and came back on the beach.

Laughing gulls were fighting over stolen bait fish (the one on the left has one in his beak).

A boat cruises by the lighthouse on Egmont Key.

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Dancing red and pink

I found one of the reddish egrets feeding in a small lagoon out on the beach at Fort Desoto in mid-March. It wasn’t too hard to find. There were several other photographers already there. He was dancing around looking for fish and was quite entertaining for a while. They use their wings to cast a shadow on the water so they can see the liffle fishies better. The color on their faces are brighter this time of year during mating season.

I started heading north on the beach and saw another one fishing. His beak wasn’t quite as pink as the first one but he was still beautiful.

Several red breasted mergansers were also fishing and one got too close to the egret. The egret did his best eagle imitation and the merganser scooted off.

It’s easy to spend all morning watching these guys dancing around in the water.

I eventually pulled myself away from the egrets and headed for a long walk up the beach. It was super low tide and you could walk out forever. The beach looks pink when the tide is this low (assuming from the algea in the sand).

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Early morning on the beach.

I got to Fort Desoto Park after the sun had come up but it was hiding behind a big cloud. I was able to catch the orange glow behind the cloud though, right over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I was hoping to find the big flock of white pelicans who had been hanging out at the park for weeks now but I could only find 2 out at the north end. 

I know I have a million pictures of the reddish egret but I can’t help stopping and snapping a few more when he’s dancing around for his fish. He was hanging out in a tide pool and was putting on a show.

A few other birds on the beach was a turkey vulture cleaning up the beach eating a dead fish and a great blue heron strutting around.

I was walking on a back trail hoping to find the white pelicans in the back lagoon and saw this eagle flying in to a tree right in front of me. He landed in a dead tree which was good since he would have been hidden in the leaves if the the tree was still alive. He stayed for a few seconds and grabbed a branch before taking off. Assuming he was heading back to the nest across the park.

Pelicans flying across the clouds.

I stopped by the fishing pier before leaving but it was quiet. I couldn’t help but snap the cormorant drying his wings and then I noticed this crow trying to eat a piece of paper. He played with it for a few minutes but finally realized he couldn’t eat it so he dropped it in the water. Ugh. More trash.

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A great morning for beautiful birds

I headed down to Fort Desoto at the end of August not expecting much. As I headed out to the north beach I was greeted by a few spoonbills. I rarely see them here and in fact it was probably last fall when they were in the same spot. I wonder if these are the same ones that have stopped by for a rest.

I found a few red knots hanging out with one of the resident reddish egrets.

A red knot still in breeding feathers.

The best part of the morning was seeing an uncommon avocet. It wasn’t really a surprise though. I had heard 2 were here but wasn’t counting on actually finding it so it was a bonus to walk up on it. I didn’t see the other one although it may have been hiding in the sanctuary close by. There were 3 that hung out here last fall and I was able to catch those on 2 visits.

A young skimmer fluffing up his feathers.

A dunk and a catch.

Looking over through the sea oats over to Egmont Key in the distance. If you look close in the right hand side, you can see an osprey sitting on a branch on the beach.

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Usual things at Fort Desoto

Lots of little birds on Outback Key at Fort Desoto. After a morning of looking through all of these little birds for anything unusual with no luck, I headed over the fishing pier to see what was going on there.

My friend TOTO was hanging out near the fishing pier (he is tagged with a band that has TOTO on it). He’s been around for years.

A snowy plover was skipping around in low tide.

Sushi for breakfast.

Pelicans were also diving for their sushi breakfast.

“Whatta you want lady?”

I think that’s a piece of apple in this crow’s beak. At least it’s not a chip.

What is he doing up here? I have never seen a reddish egret hanging around the fishing pier. They are usually feeding along the shoreline.

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A beautiful bird

It was a quiet morning at Fort Desoto in late June.  I was there very early so there wasn’t many people on the beach.  I found one of the local reddish egrets dancing around hunting for fish and couldn’t help but take a ton of pictures of him. He uses his wings to shade the water so he can see the fish better so it appears as if he’s dancing. He puts on quite a show.

All of a sudden he realizes that two snowy egrets have moved in on his spot.

He tried to chase them away but then ended up flying far down the beach.

Another morning at Fort Desoto

The usual birds at Fort Desoto in late September.

A fairly rare lesser black back gull was near the fishing pier. Little did I know that 2 weeks later I would see a greater one in Boston.

Pink and green covered the fields.

Rush hour traffic on the water.

A windy morning means lots of kiteboarders out on the water.

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On the beach near downtown St. Pete.

I usually only see reddish egrets on the gulf beaches but I found this one at a park on the bay near downtown St. Pete. I was bummed that the sun wasn’t out to show off his pretty colors but he’s still an amazing bird.

An osprey flew right over my head.

Usual things on the beach. Coconuts (although they look like tree boobs to me) and mangrove crabs.

The view from North Shore Park just north of downtown St. Pete on the bay.

I stopped by the Safety Harbor fishing pier on the way home and just missed the greyhound meet up. I would have liked to have gotten pictures of them all together but they were just leaving to go on a walk around Safety Harbor. The dog in the first picture was wondering why he couldn’t go although he looked pretty happy just chilling by the water.

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Birds on the beach during red tide

There were few birds out on the beach at Fort Desoto when I visited during the peak of the red tide algae bloom. The few there were busy eating breakfast. Some were eating the dead sea life that had washed up on shore. I didn’t see any birds acting sick during this trip. Volunteers were out on the beach every day looking for sick birds that could be affected by eating too much of the dead fish. I kept yelling “Don’t eat that.” but they weren’t listening.

A cormorant and osprey were fighting over a lamp-post on the pier.

Even the crows were eating the dead fish. The park rangers kept raking up the shoreline but the dead fish kept washing up on shore.

Royal terns in the air.

The sandbar spit across the channel was full of birds.

Still a beautiful day out at Fort Desoto.

Visiting my favorite pier groupies.

A few of the regulars at the pier; the famous great blue heron/great egret hybrid, a ruddy turnstone, a reddish egret, lots of snowy egrets always looking for a handout and great blue heron and reddish egret fighting over space on the railing.

Skimmers were skimming the bait fish.

 

This reddish egret was bored with me.

Shots of a beautiful morning at the pier. These were taken in early September, before Irma.

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